Two foods abundantly overflowing from our garden right now are zucchini and plums. What better way to utilize their distinct flavors than to create a recipe that features both! We have enjoyed a bountiful harvest already and we’re only half way through the summer. In my recent gardening post, Our First Back to Eden Garden (Part 1), I described the success of our new mulch experiment using wood chips. The summer squash and fruit trees seem to be benefiting the most, as we have had our largest crops of each in our four years of gardening.
At first, I didn’t think zucchini and plums would go together. But after reviewing quite a few recipes online, I recognized that zucchini bread is generally sweet in nature. And the plums add just the right sweetness atop an already-delicious zucchini muffin. My Paleo Zucchini Muffins are a good fit for those on a grain-free, gluten-free diet or those following a healing protocol, like AIP or full GAPS.
Bring on the zucchini! We are also enjoying it steamed, sautéed, grilled, and occasionally in soups. We still have too much to eat ourselves, so we’ve been sharing the squash with family and friends. My sister has even dubbed us her personal vegetable CSA supplier for the month! As for the plums, we have already frozen several bags in their whole form and plan to use them in cooking and baking in the coming months. The plums in these photos are the last couple dozen from our tree.
So today, I’m savoring zucchini and plums in this muffin recipe. It turned out so well, that I’m sure it will become a favorite in our family, especially this time of year, when we have a fresh harvest.
I hope you will enjoy it as much as we have!
Paleo Zucchini Muffins with Plums
1 and 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (1 medium zucchini)
4-5 plums sliced
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup honey
1 mashed banana
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Using a grater, shred zucchini and set aside.
Slice 4-5 plums and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt coconut oil and honey in preheating oven.
In a large bowl, mash banana and mix with eggs and vanilla. Stir in coconut oil and honey when liquid.
In a small bowl, mix coconut flour, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg together.
Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until well combined.
Gently stir in zucchini.
Use paper liners or coconut oil to coat your muffin pan.
Using a spoon, scoop the batter into the muffin cups.
Layer 2-3 plum slices on top of each uncooked muffin.
The Blue Angels jets thundered over my head, practicing their performance for our local “international” air show last week. I was filled with patriotic pride. Then, I started weeping, thinking about my baby growing up to be a pilot. We live so close to the airport, maybe our son and daughter will want to take pilot lessons. Or maybe they will become an engineer, teacher, artist, or biologist. The future possibilities are endless! My tears only lasted a moment, as I began laughing at myself soon after. Ah, pregnancy hormones!
Yes, I’m now almost four months pregnant. It’s a miracle, an amazing testimony to God’s faithfulness and blessing in our lives. We are looking forward to meeting our precious little one in early January 2016.
Those of you who have followed my blog the last couple years know I struggled with infertility due to uterine fibroids. In April of 2015, I had a myomectomy surgery, after suffering for over three years. There was the physical pain of heavy bleeding and long cycles, and then there was the emotion toll of knowing I couldn’t have children. The largest fibroid blocked any chance for a fertilize egg to implant successfully. And then there was the insurance piece. For the longest time, we didn’t have suitable insurance that would cover such an expensive surgery. So, we waited. I waited. Jim waited. Even after my fibroids were removed, we were told there was no guarantee we could have children. There could be other complications. After all, I’m 39 years old. We continued to pray, along with our wonderful Christian friends and family. And God answered. Here I am pregnant and feeling good. We are ecstatic and grateful for the opportunity to become parents. Jim has shown more excitement than he has in quite a while. As soon as we started announcing our pregnancy, he told everyone from his coworkers to our church friends to our dentist in the first week! 😉 (Read previous posts about my journey in these links.)
For the most part, my pregnancy has been uneventful and healthy. Beside moments of extreme fatigue and hot flashes interrupting my sleep, I’ve had no morning sickness and no major pain. In some ways, I think I feel better being pregnant! (I’ve heard this is often true for women who have low thyroid and progesterone conditions, like me.) I can grow a baby and feel better too. Nice!
Eating for Two
People who see me eat, especially my husband, know that I eat a lot of food. Now that I’m pregnant, I eat even more. Or more correctly put, I’m eating more often. I was told by my midwife that I didn’t need to “eat for two,” but since baby is sourcing nutrients from my real food diet, I need regular intake to keep myself well nourished. I notice that my energy levels are more stable when I eat every three to four hours like clockwork. Even at night. At about week 10, I started waking up at 3:00am and couldn’t go back to sleep. Or I would wake up with itching all over my body. I soon realized that a small protein snack put me right back to sleep. Now, I pack a small lunch sack with an ice pack to keep beside my bed every night. When hypoglycemia symptoms strike, I eat and go back to sleep.
So, what am I eating? Lots of healthy protein from grass-fed beef and lamb, and organic chicken. Lots of vegetables, always more vegetables, mostly cooked. I’m consuming more healthy fats like eggs, avocados, coconut, tallow (beef fat) and liver to keep up my iron stores. (Can you say liver pate? It’s really very good.) I’m eating far more fruit (’tis the season for berries!) and carbs than I was eating before my pregnancy. That quickly solved my constipation problem early on in the first weeks.
A book that has been very helpful in explaining the nutritional needs required for pregnancy is The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care by Sally Fallon and Dr. Thomas Cowan. It’s based on the work of Dr. Weston A Price, who traveled the world in the early 20th century researching the real food diets of traditional cultures untouched by Western society. It’s amazing to read about the special pre-natal foods that tribal women consumed, in preparation for a healthy birth and baby. I wish we would consider conception and pregnancy planning so sacred in our culture! While you may not agree with all the advice for our modern world, I recommend the book for all mothers and mothers-to-be. It’s well researched and fascinating.
Preparing for our New Arrival
I’ve been blessed to have friends give me bags of maternity clothes, and cute ones at that! I’m almost done sorting, washing, and organizing my clothes closet to wear my new “I’m finally pregnant” wardrobe.
We’ve also have the privilege of borrowing a co-sleeper crib that attaches to our bed for baby’s early months and an 80-year old wood crib to use for later as our baby grows into sleeping on his/her own. Thank you to my parents and siblings! We are also planning on purchasing a Baby Safe crib mattress cover to reduce exposure to toxic flame retardants and minimize the risk of SIDS, as well as 100 percent cotton baby clothes for the same reasons. Keeper of the Home has an informative post about why flame retardants in children’s sleepwear is a major health hazard.
Of course, there are car seats and strollers to think about, but I’m not concerned about finding used options in good condition. I’m all about second-hand, especially if it saves us money. We would also like to try cloth diapering, but I’m still researching the best brands and would prefer an all-cotton diaper, if possible.
Planning for Gentle Surgical Birth
My pre-natal care is being handled by a mid-wife. We have been grateful for her cooperation with our naturally-minded perspective on pregnancy. I have refused a flu-shot and the awful gestational diabetes glucose drink. (Who would give a fasting pregnant woman 50 ounces of sugar in one sitting?!) In some cases, she has been gracious to offer alternative tests that will be sufficient in managing my health.
At some point in the third trimester, we will need to meet with an OB/GYN who specializes in cesarean section deliveries. Because of my fibroid surgery and excess scar tissue on my endometrium, a natural birth is not recommended. Uterine rupture is a very real risk, especially during labor and heavy contractions. Every nurse and doctor (including our midwife) we have spoken to has urged us to have a C-section birth. For women that have had a laparoscopic myomectomy with removal of fibroids outside the uterine cavity only, there is potential opportunity for a vaginal delivery. I have read about such stories in my research. In my case, however, I had an abdominal myomectomy with a deep incision in the center of my uterus to remove the largest fibroid. I wish a natural birth was possible, but I don’t want to risk my life or the life of my baby.
Can you have a more “natural” cesarean birth? Yes, you can! More doctors are aiming to make this medical procedure, also called a “gentle cesarean,” as close to the real thing as possible. With a detailed birth plan, you can request specific, natural practices. We will be asking for the following:
Immediate skin-to-skin contact with the mother (both in the operating and recovery room)
Delayed umbilical cord clamping (at least 2 minutes, but until it stops pulsing is ideal)
No washing of the baby until the antibacterial protective skin coating (called the vernix caseoso) flakes off naturally
Wrapping the baby in blankets from home with mom’s bacteria on them
Swabbing the vagina before IV antibiotics to share mother’s bacterial flora with the baby (This mimics the effects of travel through the birth canal. Place in baby’s mouth and nose directly or on breast before nursing.)
No hepatitis B vaccine (I personally do not want to inject my newborn when his/her immune system is so under-developed. It’s a rare disease and this particular vaccine is not necessary unless the mother is a drug user or has had multiple sexual encounters. We may consent to additional vaccines in the future, but not this one at birth.)
Constant contact with one of the parents (I want to nurse right away but if I am resting at some point after surgery, Jim can watch our baby.)
To learn more about natural C-section options, browse these helpful links:
After learning that a C-section was necessary to birth my baby, I was especially encouraged by this video. It’s twelve minutes long, but worth the time. I encourage all mothers to be prepared for this potential surgery, whether it’s scheduled or not. Every time I watch this, I cry when the baby is born. Enjoy!
Your Prayers are Appreciated
My uterine fibroids story has been quite the journey and it’s not over. In some ways, I feel like it is just the beginning. Now that we have a baby on the way, we have much to look forward to. Thank you so much for your support of our family. We covet your continued prayers for a healthy Mama, baby, and birth experience.
It’s been a privilege to share my hurts and joys with you. I hope, in some small way, I have encouraged you, especially if you are woman struggling with the pain of fibroids and/or infertility. I would also love to hear your stories. Please share in the comments below or send me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition to the unfailing strength and love of God in our lives, our common experiences give us hope.
“If we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” Romans 8:25
When we first watched the documentary film, Back to Eden, about two years ago, we fell in love with wood chips. It’s a fascinating journey through the beautiful gardens and orchards of master gardener, Paul Gautschi, who lives in northern Washington state. (You can watch this inspiring film for free on the Back to Eden website.) Even though we had two successful vegetable gardens up to that point as new home owners, we were looking for a way to increase yield, control weeds, and decrease watering costs during the summer, just like every other gardener in America. We resolved to try wood chips as a mulch in our garden as soon as we could find the time. Fortunately, for us, one of our family members owns a tree service company that dumps wood chips for a small donation at local venues.
(Note: the type of chips I’m referring to are from the entire tree, including the branches and leaves, not bark chips. Wood chips freshly cut from full-grown trees have the most valuable nutrients as garden mulch.)
Wood Chip Spreading Commences
In the fall of 2014, we had a full truck load, then another half load dumped in our front garden. (A year previously, we had tilled up the entire front lawn and turned it into a vegetable garden.) Between the two of us, it took Jim and I about four hours to spread out the chips evenly with rakes. A couple months later, at the beginning of winter, we had another full load dumped in our driveway, to carry to the back garden for spreading. We raked the mulch to about four to five inches deep over both the front and back gardens. And there the wood chips sat all winter and most of spring, starting to break down and creating lush, moist soil underneath.
We have plans to incorporate more landscaping in the front garden in between leaving large patches for vegetables, as finances permit us to buy more expensive plants. For now, the front garden looks clean but fairly brown through the winter. I’m glad the neighbors haven’t seemed to mind.
Spring Planting Defeat and Victory
We were excited to begin in late spring, so I planted summer squash seeds in early May in the front garden. I may have begun too soon, but this year, we had such a warm spring (those of you who live in the Northwest know that we have had one of the warmest springs in recorded history!), I thought that we would have success with an early planting. To my surprise, only three or four seeds out of 15 survived! Compared to previous years, this was an abysmal record. What to do? Try, try again. Thus, I planted from seed a second time, and again, only two or three survived. Then, I started to take notice. The new growth was being eaten by slugs! It seems that the wood chips attract tiny slugs and they are everywhere. Even though I couldn’t always find them, their slimy trails and half-eaten squash leaves were evidence they had taken their toll on my fresh plants. (I have not studied slug habitat, but don’t they come out more at night?) The third time, I got smart. I started well over a dozen squash plants (just to be safe!) in small black garden containers and then planted the starts in the soil, once they were at least five inches tall. Finally, success! Now, all of my squash plants are growing and not one of the “starts” has died.
First lesson? Plant from starts, not from seed. In this first year of my Back to Eden garden, I’ve learned that squash plants do much better from starts.
(Notice how the squash plants are in different stages of growth. That’s due to the first and second plantings of seeds dying off from slug attacks! The third time, I planted starts that were at least five inches tall and had success.)
Our back garden of carrots, turnips, rutabagas, collards, kale, and more was planted much later in June, for various reasons. We followed the rules for a first year Back to Eden garden. On the page, How to Grow an Organic Garden, the website states:
“If you are using raw wood chips, pull them back and plant in the soil or compost (material below the wood chips). Allow the seeds to come up before pulling the wood chips back around the base of the plant.”
We did exactly that – pulled the wood chips back to make “soil trenches” to plant in. The results have been less than stellar. Why? It seems at this early stage, we might have “too many” chips. Even when we pull them back and try to plant directly in the soil, the chips fall back into the trench. From my limited experience, it’s my guess that the chips are smothering the new growth, at least when planted from seed. The turnips and rutabagas have done the best and seem to be growing fairly well. Only about 50 percent of the carrots, kale, broccoli, and kohlrabi have made it.
(Our turnips are finally coming up!)
The Pros and Cons of Using Wood Chips
I have to admit my love for wood chips is not as fervent as it once was. I really thought this first year would go more smoothly. But with every new venture, you should expect bumps in the road, right? In some senses, wood chips are the best thing to happen to our gardens. In other ways, I dislike the chips for making me work harder than I thought I would need to. As the wood chips break down and become a part of the soil, I think future plantings will be easier and more successful.
Let me share our observations about using wood chips. There is good news and bad news.
Wood chips do a fabulous job of weed control. In the past three months, I’ve only pulled about two dozen weeds (no joke!). That has been wonderful. In years past, I have spent hours and hours pulling weeds throughout the summer and fall. I won’t be doing that this year!
With wood chips, the few weeds I’ve had to deal with are easy to pull. Weed seeds don’t have a chance to get into the soil because the wood chips are so deep. Out of the ones that do survive, their roots are thin and very easy to pull and discard.
Wood chips make vegetable plants big and super healthy! Even after a rough start, our squash plants are absolutely beautiful and producing lovely, juicy fruit. (Notice the zucchini and blue Hubbard in the photos below.) They look bigger and better than plants from our previous gardens. We believe the wood chips are creating a rich, more vibrant soil. They have also caused rapid strong growth in our fruit trees and raspberry crop. (We spread the chips everywhere in our garden!)
Wood chips have decreased our garden water consumption dramatically. Compared to open bare soil, the wood chips keep water in the soil and plants. Now that the squash plants are almost to full maturity, we’re only watering about twice a week, even in the hottest of weather.
Wood chips seem to attract slugs, especially in the spring when the ground is still moist. This is bad news for new growth coming up from seed. In a different climate, where there is less rainfall, this might not be the case. But in our zone 8 with lots of rain throughout the winter and spring, I’m guessing that slugs are more of a problem. I also confirmed this with our CSA farmer, who tried using mulch on a large scale one year. His said slugs were a major problem. The solution? Planting from starts (not seed) seemed to help. But you could also use Sluggo Snail & Slug Control, a natural organic slug killer, or Epsom salts around each vegetable plant or row to control the slug population.
Wood chips seem to smother new growth from seed, at least in the first year. The Back to Eden website is absolutely correct. You must pull back the chips and plant in the soil. Otherwise, the seeds have no chance. Even then, the wood chips tend to move and fall back into the “soil hole.” One possible solution we have not tried: place a plastic barrier in between the soil and wood chips, so they don’t fall back into place.
Four positives and two negatives is not a bad ratio, but the two cons were big surprises for me in our first year Back to Eden garden. I’m looking forward to learning more and sharing our experience in future updates. I believe wood chips will end up being a good choice for our vegetable gardens in the long run. This is a different style of gardening and we have to adjust our expectations, as well as do things differently to get the best out of our wood chip garden.
Do you have experience with wood chips? Or a different kind of mulch, like hay or straw?
Have you ever seen Back to Eden? I recommend it, especially because it showcases God’s amazing creation and power to grow abundant food. Let me know what you think when you watch it.
(Zucchini, yellow and patty pan squash from our first Back to Eden garden.)
Butternut squash is my all-time favorite grain-free side dish. It offers many different explorations for the palate, depending on the preparation. It has a variety of uses – it can be grilled, stewed, souped, mashed, baked and roasted. My Beginner’s Guide to Butternut Squash includes a simple steamed recipe, plus seven other tasty creations that you’re sure to love. And if that’s not enough to tempt your creative side, try Top 10 Uses for Butternut Squash by Empowered Sustenance or Butternut Squash: 20 Ways by Easy Paleo.
Today I provide you a fun and simple squash fries recipe, a perfect addition for your coming July 4th holiday BBQ! Substitute these butternut squash fries for potato fries to accommodate your friends and family with potato allergies or those on a low-carb diet.
To make prep super easy, choose a butternut squash that has a long straight neck and small round end. Then, use only the straight end to make your fries. It’s more difficult to cut straight-looking sticks out of the round end.
1 large butternut squash
2 tablespoons of melted butter or coconut oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 and 1/2 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/3 cup of water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt butter or coconut oil in oven while preheating.
Cut butternut squash into fries (long sticks) and place in 9 x 13 glass pan.
Pour butter or coconut oil evenly over squash.
Sprinkle garlic powder, thyme and salt evenly.
Pour water into bottom of pan.
Bake for 45-50 minutes until soft, longer if you like them crispy.
Serve hot with dinner, as an afternoon snack, or for your July 4th BBQ!
In Part 1 of my series, we looked at the dangers of acid-blocking drugs like Nexium and Prilosec. In Part 2, we reviewed the risks of taking synthetic birth control pills for an extended period. And now, in Part 3, we will show the effects of one of the most-commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals in the last century. In fact, I don’t know anyone that has not been on a course of these bacteria-slaying drugs. Do you?
Antibiotics save lives. It’s true. Antibiotic drugs are one of the most amazing discoveries of all modern medical miracles. They have restored wellbeing to countless numbers of people of all ages and walks of life.
The reverse is also true. Antibiotics damage health, especially when over-prescribed by well-meaning physicians who are unsure how to appropriately treat viral infections, or who are concerned about being sued for medical malpractice, or who are pressured by parents who demand the drugs for their children.
I can think of two instances in my life that antibiotics were truly necessary and probably saved my life. In my former stressful career as a full-time public school music teacher, I had an accident with a paper stapler (yes, you can laugh). I contracted cellulitis and needed IV antibiotics every four hours for a several days. It was quite serious and I credit the antibiotics with helping my weakened immune system fight off the blood infection. And three years ago, within 10 months of getting married, moving twice, and buying and remodeling a home, I succumbed to a kidney infection with major pain and a high fever. Even my naturopathic doctor recommended a second course of powerful antibacterial drugs when the first didn’t work. Thank God, I recovered once again, thanks in large part to the wonders of modern antibiotics. I also recall a couple incidents in my childhood where antibiotics may have helped me overcome bronchitis.
So, all in all, antibiotics have been indispensible four or five (my mother would probably say five to six) times in my lifetime.
What about the other dozen occasions I’ve taken antibiotics?
During my college years, I had recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs), which I now believe were exacerbated by my gluten sensitivity. (Read about bladder-related disorders and gluten sensitivity.) My MD prescribed antibiotics readily the first couple times after urine samples showed positive infections. After that, I can remember insisting she prescribe antibiotics whenever I felt like I had one, even without a urine sample. I would just tell the nurse over the phone I had a UTI and she would ask the doc to write up a script for the latest antibiotic. What was I thinking? Did I have an infection every time I took antibiotics or was it just bladder irritation? Little did I know I was destroying my gut bacteria with every round.
We Don’t Need Antibiotics (Most of the Time)
A healthy immune system can ward off both viral and bacterial invaders. Health problems arise when our immune system breaks down and allows viruses or pathogens to take control. So, our first and best defense is to continuously strengthen our immune system. When antibiotics are necessary in a crisis, it’s important to recognize they only target bacteria. Antibiotics kill off unwanted pathogens with ease. But in the case of a viral infection, antibiotics are completely ineffective.
Take the common cold for example. Colds come from viruses and cannot be treated successfully with antibiotics. Patients that plead for antibiotic treatment for colds are just wasting their money at best, and are destroying their good gut bacteria and causing more antibiotic resistance at worse. It’s best to rest and allow the virus to run its course; most individuals can get over a cold within seven to ten days.
Did you know that 80 percent of ear infections in children are viral? Yes, that’s right. Most ear infections will resolve themselves within a week, especially with addition of immune-boosting supplements like vitamin D and garlic, and the removal of allergy-causing foods like conventional diary. But most parents don’t know this and are still demanding antibiotics for their children.
Even in some bacterial infections, like my example of urinary tract infections, appropriate vitamins can help flush out unwanted bacteria without the use of antibiotics. Vitamin C and cranberry juice are very effective in treating most UTIs.
And in the case of conventional livestock farming, the animals are given antibiotics due to their unhealthy environment. They are locked up in cages in large indoor barns, standing in their own feces, and not allowed to roam on pasture. The antibiotics only prevent their untimely death before they are slaughtered for meat. This is why our family only buys 100 percent grass-fed pastured cows and organic poultry. We not only want to avoid antibiotics in the meat, but we also desire for the animals that nourish our bodies to be treated humanely with care.
The Consequences of Antibiotic Overuse
The overuse of antibiotics has both a personal and national effects. In my case, I believe too many antibiotics set me up for acute gluten sensitivity, worsening thyroid problems, and leaky gut syndrome, which in turn caused my food sensitivities. Basically, I devastated my beneficial gut bacteria. Unfortunately, most current antibiotic drugs destroy all bacteria, good or bad. They don’t differentiate between the two. And you need beneficial bugs, the kinds found in yogurt and sauerkraut. Keep in mind that 70 percent of your immune resides in your gut, so these beneficial microbes are absolutely necessary for good health. If you must take antibiotics, I strongly suggest taking a probiotic supplement after you finish your course. I’ve even heard some practitioners recommend probiotics during antibiotic treatment. Just don’t take them at the same time.
The overuse of antibiotics also has a societal effect, by creating the growth of superbugs, like MSRA (or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), particularly in hospital and nursing homes. This strain of bacteria has become resistant to common antibiotics. It often takes a combination of two or three antibiotics and sometimes IV antibiotics for successful treatment. And in serious cases, patients with weakened immune systems still die. A World Health Organization (WHO) study in 2014 concluded that the rise of antibacterial resistance is such a serious problem that it “…threatens the achievements of modern medicine.” Apparently, more and more countries are dealing with increased medical costs and loss of life due to standard antibiotic treatments failing at a startling rate.
Yes, antibiotics are necessary sometimes. I don’t doubt their power to save lives. But in this age of overuse, can we take the wait and see approach in non-life-threatening situations? Can we look at other immune-modulating methods that can curb the unnecessary use of antibiotics? I think it is quite possible and even required if we want to avoid the overgrowth of antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
Here are some natural techniques that will work in most cases. (This information is not intended as medical advice. Always consult your physician about appropriate treatments for your health conditions.)
Wait it out – Almost all viruses and some bacterial infections will take care of themselves in due time without medical intervention. Listen to your body; it knows what to do! Give it what it needs and it will fight off disease. If you become worse after a period of time, see your doctor immediately.
Sleep and rest – Chronic sleep deprivation certainly results in more illness and disease. It’s vital to maintain at least seven hours of sleep per night, and more if you are trying to overcome sickness. If you are tired, don’t fight it! Take the day or several days off and let your body rest.
Check vitamin D levels – Low vitamin D levels have been shown to lead to more colds, flus, and infections of all kinds. From the research I’ve done, I think it’s the most critical supplement to take during the winter months. Check out my post about vitamin D to learn more!
Look for common food sensitivities – If your immune system is reacting to certain foods, then it will cause excess inflammation, leaving your body easy prey to viruses and bacteria. The top allergens are: gluten, dairy, soy, corn, shellfish, nuts, and eggs. A 30-day elimination trial should be enough time to show what foods bother you. Going gluten-free was the first step in turning my health around.
Eat garlic and fermented foods, like sauerkraut – Immune-boosting foods rich in sulphur, vitamins, enzymes, and bacteria are important. Start thinking about food as medicine and see your health improve!
Take probiotics, vitamin C, magnesium, and cod liver oil – Most of us don’t get adequate vitamins and minerals from our food because of depleted soils. Some supplements are essential for immune function, especially if you have a digestive condition. Green Pasture Fermented Cod Liver Oil provides both vitamin D and A in proper ratios.
Limit refined sugar and processed foods – Sugar, additives, colorings, and chemicals in packaged foods deplete your immune system and make you more susceptible to both viruses and bacteria.
Breastfeed your newborn for a year or more – Breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do to colonize your child’s gut with beneficial bacteria, which builds their immune system!
For more information regarding the overuse of antibiotics, I recommend the book Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues by Martin Blaser, MD. I have yet to read it, but I’ve heard him interviewed on a couple different podcasts. He shares fascinating information backed up by new research that will be sure to help you and your family on your journey to better health.
When I miss three weeks of posting on my blog, you know something has caused me to lose track of my writing schedule. In this case, it was a good thing. I’m happy to report that my husband and I took an extended vacation and had a delightful, rest-filled time in Whistler, British Columbia. Canada has such majestic beauty! We had the privilege of reveling in many natural wonders – forests, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and glorious snow-capped mountains. All without the confinement of work, clocks, strict schedules, and yes, even technology. I love to blog and share what I learn about food, health, and life, but this vacation reminded me of how much I miss connecting with nature. I live in a beautiful place, this Pacific Northwest, and I often take for granted the natural wonders surrounding me every day. This vacation reminded me of my need to stop and enjoy the outdoors, even if only for a few minutes a day. Whether in be the fresh air, blue sky, rainy clouds (yes, it’s still western Oregon!), birds in the trees, or flowers in my garden, my spirit is renewed when I take time to listen and bask in God’s amazing creation. Spending time outside is so good for my health. I can literally feel my body relax when I soak in the outdoors.
I wanted to share photos of my vacation, so you could experience a part of my outdoor recreation in Canada, but more than that, I want to inspire you to create your own regular outdoor adventures with this post. Take in the beauty from my little Canon camera, and then thoughtfully consider my questions and ideas about your outdoor playtime.
Whistler at Its Finest
The end of May was a lovely time to see Whistler. Since we are not fans of winter sports like skiing and snowboarding, we booked our vacation for the beginning of summer activities like hiking and biking. We enjoyed partly sunny and comfortable 75-80 degree weather most days during our trip.
Whistler was home to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. The tulips were blooming at 2,000 elevation at the end of May in Whistler Village.
We rode our bikes around the paved Valley Trail and stopped to photo every lake and mountain view.
Green Lake with more stunning mountain views!
We rode the gondola to the top of Whistler Blackcomb Mt. at 6,000 feet. We saw mountain bike riders at the base of the mountain and snow skiers at the top of the mountain.
This is the one and only time you will see me standing in first place by the Olympics rings! Notice the majestic mountains in the background. I could have enjoyed the view all day long. We only had time for lunch.
We saw beautiful wild lupine flowers on our hike around Lost Lake.
We saw lots of wildlife, including beautiful moths and butterflies. No black bears, even though we saw warning signs everywhere!
One of my favorite parts about our vacation was visiting two waterfalls. Absolutely breathtaking! The sights and sounds of the water gave me chills.
The magnificent Nairn and Brandywine Falls, not far driving distance from Whistler. They were easy hikes, accessible to most families.
My photos can’t describe the full effect of actually being in these majestic natural wonders. You’ll have to plan a trip to visit Whistler yourself someday!
Questions to Ponder
How much time do you spend outdoors? 15 minutes a day? An hour? Only when you are running errands?
How much time do your children spend outdoors? Do they play outside on a daily basis? Even when it’s raining? (That’s what baths are for!)
What is your favorite way to spend time outside? Do you like to be moving and active, as in biking or hiking or swimming? Or would you rather cloud gaze, sun bathe, or sit by a quiet stream?
If you live in a dense apartment complex or on a busy city street, do you know where the closest parks or forests are in your neighborhood?
If you live in the country, do you know where the closest hiking or biking trails, rivers, or lakes are in your area?
If you live near the ocean or mountains, how often do you spend time enjoying the awe-inspiring vastness of such huge forms?
Ideas for Everyday Outdoor Activities
Take a walk around your neighborhood, even if only few blocks. Breathe deeply and allow your chest, shoulders and neck to relax.
If you live reasonably close to your workplace, walk or bike to work. Save money on gas and enjoy the outdoors!
Plant a flower or vegetable garden and tend to it daily. Whether you are watering or pulling weeds, gardening is a healthful way to appreciate the outdoors. Studies also show that gardening can extend your life span!
Take your young children to the park for a picnic lunch and playtime.
Send your school-age children outside to play in the back yard after school, especially if they are not already participating in outdoor sports. They have limited recess time. They desperately need to run around in free play.
In the summer time when it’s hot, run through the sprinkler or slide down the water slide in the grass with your children. One of my favorite activities growing up as a kid!
Break out the sidewalk chalk and create some art!
Ideas for Weekend Outdoor Activities (When You Have More Time)
Take a local hike. If you like mountains, find the nearest mountain hike. If you like wildflowers, search for the best wildflower hike. Some cities even have nature parks with paved paths, easily accessible to wheelchairs. LocalHikes.com has a long list displayed by city.
Visit the beach or nearest lakefront for a picnic. Toss a frisbee, kick a soccer ball, or throw a football.
Locate your city’s best biking trails and take the whole family on a ride. The Rails to Trails organization has been converting old railroad lines to biking trails. What’s great about these trails is they are for pedestrian and bike use only – there is no automobile congestion! Search for trails in your state by visiting TrailLink.com. The Banks to Vernonia Trail in my area is one of my favorites.
Tour all the waterfalls in your area. For the best water viewing, go before the dry season when the falls become a trickle.
Seek out friends and family members who own boats. If you provide the food, I bet they will provide the watercraft. Canoeing, kayaking, or fishing are great leisure-time activities that slow the pace of busy lives.
What are your ideas for regular outdoor activities?
We all know the health benefits of being outside – the air is cleaner than most indoor structures, the exercise is good for your heart and bones, and the sun provides vitamin D for a healthy immune system. But more than that, spending time outdoors can renew your spirit and soul, I think partly because we are closer to our Creator’s beautiful natural inventions.
Are you inspired to shut down your computer, turn off your cell phone, stop texting, and get outside?! Go for it. Better yet, take a friend or family member with you and cultivate relationships with those you love.
Renew your spirit in the wonders of the great outdoors!
Applesauce and sweet potatoes are the perfect pairing. They offer a blend of the sweet and starchy. They meet the requirements of the Paleo lifestyle, since they are both grain and gluten free. And they just taste good together. Add some cinnamon spice and raisins and you’ve got a satisfying side dish for dinner or a flavorful afternoon snack. Throw in a couple fried eggs, and you’ve got a nice breakfast too.
Ever since we began a gluten-free diet several years ago for health reasons, we’ve been experimenting quite a bit with root vegetables. They taste good baked by themselves, but even better when you add a sweet fruit like apples, pears, or even berries. Sweet potatoes grow in the ground like white and red potatoes and come in a variety of colors – yellow, orange and red. They are sometimes confused with yams, but genuine yams come from Africa, Asia, and Latin America and are not traditionally cultivated in the United States. Grocery stores often label the orange variety as yams, when in reality, what you are buying is sweet potatoes.
There is no need to add sugar or honey to this recipe, since the applesauce and raisins compliment the already sweet nature of these potatoes.
Your family will be asking for seconds!
Applesauce Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon and Raisins
3 large sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons of melted butter or coconut oil
1 cup of unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup of raisins
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 cup of water
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Melt butter or coconut oil in oven while preheating.
Cut sweet potatoes into medium-sized cubes and put in 9 x 13 glass pan.
Pour butter or coconut oil evenly over sweet potatoes.
Spread applesauce over top of sweet potatoes.
Scatter raisins throughout pan.
Sprinkle cinnamon and salt evenly.
Pour water into bottom of pan.
Bake for 55-60 minutes until soft and tender.
Serve hot with dinner or as an afternoon snack.
Applesauce Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon and Raisins
Worms are a good outdoor distraction for little boys.
Better yet, worms make the best garden compost!
You may view worms as unpleasant slimy creatures, but I think they are God’s gift to the garden. They create soft lush soil that makes my vegetables grow healthy and taste delicious.
So, when I recently read a blog post about how to increase the worm population in your garden using worm towers, I immediately researched various websites about how to build your own. Turns out it’s not that hard, and they really do work!
With a little bit of money (about $20 of materials and $14 of fresh worms) and a little bit of time (about 3 hours), we had installed three new worm towers. It was a small, but satisfying garden adventure!
Our Worm Tower Adventures
We’ve been gardening for over three years on our little ¼ of an acre plot. It’s not big, but it’s powerful, as it produces over half of the vegetables we eat over the summer, fall and even part of the winter months. (Read my post, Better than Organic – Growing Your Own Vegetable Garden.) We are always looking for ways to increase our yield. Last fall, we spread three large loads of wood chips on top of our dirt to emulate the Back to Eden garden landscape. Utilizing worm towers seemed like the best next step to enrich our soil and produce a more plentiful vegetable garden.
Vermicomposting is the use of earthworms to convert organic waste into fertilizer to create abundant garden soil. In simple terms, the red worms eat your kitchen scraps and leave castings (worm poop) in the soil. This wonderful source of living bacteria feeds plants of all kinds and is especially beneficial for vegetable gardens.
In my opinion, worm towers are the easiest way to vermicompost. Worms “worm” their way in and out of the worm tower through small holes, eat up your compost, and slide their way back into the garden soil, leaving their castings everywhere they travel.
Here are step-by-step instructions on how to build a worm tower.
How to Build Your Own Worm Tower
1. Buy 4-6 inch wide PVC pipe and cut them down to 3-foot long sections. We found PVC pipe at Home Depot, but any hardware or plumbing store will have it on hand.
2. Drill small holes about 1-3 inches apart all around the pipe. They don’t have to be exact. As long as worms can squirm through the holes, you’re good to go.
3. Dig a 3-foot deep hole using a post-hole digger or similar electrical tool and place your “hole-y” pipe in the soil. Leave about 3-4 inches of pipe above the dirt surface. (I appreciate my wonderful husband for sweating it out and digging three holes, even one after the sun went down!)
4. Fill the bottom of the hole with some soil to set the pipe solidly into the ground.
5. Purchase a box of earthworms (not fishing worms) from your local garden center or farm store. Call ahead for availability. Place them in your worm tower(s).
6. Start dropping your kitchen scraps in the worm tower daily or weekly as you collect them. (Do not use meat or oils, only vegetable and fruit scraps and egg shells.)
7. Keep a “lid” over the worm tower to prevent pests like squirrels or raccoons from trying to eat the compost scraps. We used a small clay pot, but you could use a mesh or wire seal.
We’ve only had our worm towers installed for about six weeks, but we’ve already seen the compost slowly ebbing away. That means the worms are eating it! That means more worm poop for my garden soil! I know it sounds gross, but it’s very good for my garden plants. The best part is that I have a place to put my stinky compost without having to care for a separate compost pile or bin.
Are you going to build your own worm tower?
Here are two other helpful blogs to get you started in your worm tower adventures.
Do you have a thyroid condition? Low thyroid? Overactive thyroid? Do you suspect your thyroid imbalance is fueled by autoimmunity, as in Hashimoto’s or Graves disease?
Whatever your diagnosis, I hope this post will be of help to you. Actually, I know it will, since the resources I’m sharing with you have been of tremendous help to me! I’ve briefly mentioned my Hashimoto’s thyroid condition in previous posts, but I’ve not written an entire post dedicated to thyroid health, until now. Here’s a take-charge-of-your-thyroid-health photo! This is the kind of tenacity you need when advocating for yourself. Read on, and you’ll understand why. (This is not me, even though it looks like me. )
My Hashimoto’s thyroid story began in my early 20’s with indicators of autoimmune antibodies. Apparently, my general practitioner did not see this to be a problem, for he had no special treatment plan for me to follow. (This happens often, by the way. If I had only known then that a gluten-free regimen could have possibly saved further destruction of my thyroid!) I was feeling fine and my TSH levels were in the normal range.
In my mid 20’s, I took a modest dose of natural thyroid for a few years. But my TSH levels normalized once again, and I was able to stop thyroid hormone for a while. Fast forward to 2008 when I had a serious health crash and my thyroid was no longer able to regulate itself. My TSH levels began skyrocketing (meaning I had low thyroid) and my TPO autoimmune antibodies have been steadily climbing ever since.
For a couple years I took Acella, a generic brand of natural thyroid, but then discovered it may contain gluten! After that, I took Armour, the most commonly prescribed brand of natural thyroid, for another two years. Then, believing I may have been reacting to the fillers in Armour (like corn maltodextrin), I made the switch to a compounded dessicated thyroid without any fillers. That was three years ago, and I’m still taking the same natural thyroid, filled by a local compounding pharmacy, every morning.
Thyroid hormone maintains my energy levels and digestive processes. I certainly noticed a difference when I missed a few doses after not refilling my prescription in time! However, lifestyle changes have made an impact on my thyroid health as well. Lowering my stress, finding time for fun, and eating a grain-free (Paleo-like) diet have all made a big difference. I’m currently going through a detox program to get rid of heavy metals, in hopes of lowering my autoimmune antibodies. My goal is to reduce the immune attacks on my thyroid tissue.
What’s your story?
It’s important to know your thyroid story, because it’s very common for women to have hypothyroidism. Inherited genes, stress, poor diet, gluten sensitivity, pregnancy, and autoimmunity can all lead to low thyroid. In fact, there are millions of women walking around with hypothyroidism, and they may not even know it. Symptoms may include severe fatigue, weight gain, hair loss, depression, irregular menstrual cycles, constipation, allergies, joint pain, cold hands and feet, foggy brain, and much more. Consider these thyroid realities.
Ninety percent of hypothyroid cases are autoimmune. Yes, 90 percent! That means that many women who have been diagnosed with low thyroid actually have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This is important because there are additional lifestyle factors, besides taking daily thyroid hormone, that significantly affect thyroid function. Unfortunately, many doctors do not test for TPO and/or TGA thyroid antibodies, so patients are unaware they have an autoimmune condition.
The “normal” TSH range on lab tests does not measure optimal thyroid health. The spectrum is far too broad and outdated. My naturopath would say that if your TSH is above 2.0, then it’s too high (indicating low thyroid function), even though the average laboratory marker usually ranges from 0.5 to over 5.0! Women are often told by doctors that their thyroid is normal, when in reality they are physically ill and suffering major symptoms.
Some thyroid medications contain gluten, which can wreck havoc on the thyroid. In a case of mistaken identity, the immune system can attack the thyroid when it sees gluten molecules. This process is called molecular mimicry. This is why it’s important for patients with Hashimoto’s or Graves to pursue an entirely gluten-free lifestyle.
Thyroid health is such a huge topic, I could go on and on about fascinating facts! There is much more to say about lab markers, thyroid medications, and dietary factors. But for now, I hope these three gems have whetted your appetite to do more research.
Now on to my top five online resources, so you can learn for yourself and understand your condition better. These websites have been invaluable to me in my thyroid health journey. Let me know which ones you find to be most helpful.
5 Helpful Websites to Improve Thyroid Health
Thyroid Lifestyle – Dr. Izabella Wentz is a pharmacist specializing in thyroid health who has personally struggled with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Her articles are easy to read and very informative.
Stop the Thyroid Madness – Janie Bowthorpe oversees this patient-to-patient website. It includes articles that expose the lack of appropriate treatment for thyroid conditions in the allopathic medical system.
Thyroid Book – Dr. Datis Kharrazian’s book Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? was a eye-opener for me. He is very smart practitioner that truly cares about the health of his patients. His blog will keep you interested in thyroid information for hours.
Suzy Cohen – Dubbed America’s Most Trusted Pharmacist, Suzy Cohen’s latest book is called Thyroid Healthy. She is a wealth of information, especially about the side-effects of pharmaceutical drugs and benefits of natural treatments.
Hypothyroid Mom – Dana Trentini is a everyday mom with hypothyroidism. She also runs one of the most popular thyroid sites on the Web. If my top five thyroid websites aren’t enough information for you, she has a extensive list of thyroid resources here. This short video about her story is empowering.
I encourage you to take charge of your thyroid health because many conventionally-trained doctors will not address the full spectrum of your thyroid disorder. They will give thyroid hormone, which is often necessary, but they may overlook the advantages of lifestyle changes and vitamin and herbal supplements for patients with autoimmune thyroid. Educate yourself and become your own best thyroid advocate. Until my next post about thyroid health, I wish you the best in your thyroid research, learning, and especially improvement!
When embarking on the GAPS healing protocol several years ago, I took on the adventurous task of learning about new foods on my accepted list. All grains, beans, potatoes, and processed foods were out of my diet. Enter new and unusual vegetables! Turnips were among my first samplings. Then, I discovered rutabagas. I fell in love and I’ve been eating them ever since.
Rutabagas (pronounced “root-uh-beg-us”) are a wonderful root vegetable from the brassica family (with broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage). They are not as sweet as carrots, but neither are they as sharp as turnips. We enjoy rutabagas in soups and steamed or sautéed with other vegetables. I believe they are undervalued in the culinary world and certainly by the average American, and I’m here to declare that rutabagas are nutritious and delicious!
Mashed rutabagas are a perfect substitute for mashed potatoes, as this simple recipe implies. If you have an allergy to potatoes or are trying to reduce your starch intake, then this yellowish root veggie is for you. They are easy to find in the grocery store, usually next to the turnips and other tuberous vegetables, like cassava root and celeriac. They are abundant at the farmers’ market in the late summer, fall and winter seasons. They are also easy to grow in our Northwest climate. We have had successful rutabaga crops from our garden the last three years.
Creamy Rutabaga No-Potato Mash (Gluten and Dairy Free)
5 medium-sized rutabagas
1 cup of coconut milk (1/2 can)
sea salt to taste
Cut rutabagas into small pieces.
Boil in water for about 30-40 minutes, until rutabagas are soft and tender.
Pour off water and place rutabagas in a food processor or blender with coconut milk and sea salt.
Mix until desired consistency.
If you prefer more flavor, add a single spice while mixing. Garlic, ginger or turmeric are all excellent choices.
Serve hot as a side dish with steak or chicken and other vegetables, or enjoy by itself. Yum!
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Creamy Rutabaga No-Potato Mash (Gluten and Dairy Free)
Restored Roots is intended for informational purposes only. My blog contains general information about nutrition, medical conditions, natural treatments, and home remedies. However, any words, content, or links provided on my blog should NOT be construed as medical advice. Please consult with your licensed physician or healthcare provider if you are experiencing a health problem.
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